Beets Every Which Way: Beet Salad

red beets tossed in parsley

I love pickled beets so much that I rarely prepare them any other way. That just means that when I do eat them in another preparation, it’s gotta be excellent.

Like this little salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. cooked beets, peeled, and shredded or quartered
  • 1-2 bunches of fresh parsley
  • 3 Tbs oil oil
  • 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Dress parsley with dressing. Gently fold in beets. Season with cracked pepper if you like.

 

 

Beets Every Which Way: Simply in Season(ish)

a glass quart jar of purple beets

I have a beet problem, which is to say that I love pickled beets, which means I’m worried that I’m missing out on the perfect pickled beet recipe. That means I experiment a lot with them. My rule has been that when I make them, I make my current favorite recipe alongside a new recipe, so I can taste them against each other. Sometimes the new recipe goes on repeat and sometimes it just goes into my notes, to be revived if I think a friend or guest will enjoy it.

Today’s recipe is a riff on the Simply in Season recipe, which you know is part of the Lancaster County Mennonite tradition because of the unholy amount of sugar in it. It’s reduced here.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon boiled beets, sliced or quartered*, liquid reserved
  • 1 1/2 c. liquid from boiling the beets
  • 1 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick cinammon
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp salt

Boil vinegar, water, and spices, then cool slightly; strain. Pour over beets in a heat-proof jar. Refrigerate.

*You can steam them by covering them in tin foil and placing in a roasting pan at 400 degrees. Roast by putting them in a roasting pan with olive oil at 400 degrees. Or place beets in enough water to cover and boil 1-2 hours until soft. In any case, wash thoroughly but do not peel before you begin and leave 1-2 inches of tops intact. After the beets are cooked, the skins slip right off.

 

Beets Every Which Way: Red Wine Vinegar Beets

picked beets from a bird's eye view

I have a beet problem, which is to say that I love pickled beets, which means I’m worried that I’m missing out on the perfect pickled beet recipe. That means I experiment a lot with them. My rule has been that when I make them, I make my current favorite recipe alongside a new recipe, so I can taste them against each other. Sometimes the new recipe goes on repeat and sometimes it just goes into my notes, to be revived if I think a friend or guest will enjoy it.

Today’s recipe is a riff on red wine beets, which are delicious but not common in our house because I don’t usually keep red wine around.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb beets steamed, roasted, or boiled beets, sliced or quartered*, liquid reserved if boiled
  • 1 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c. liquid from boiling beets or nonchlorinated water
  • 1/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp whole allspice, cracked
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 5-10 black peppercorns
  • half stick of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Boil vinegar, water, and spices, then cool slightly; strain. Pour over beets in a heat-proof jar. Refrigerate*

You can steam them by covering them in tin foil and placing in a roasting pan at 400 degrees. Roast by putting them in a roasting pan with olive oil at 400 degrees. Or place beets in enough water to cover and boil 1-2 hours until soft. In any case, wash thoroughly but do not peel before you begin and leave 1-2 inches of tops intact. After the beets are cooked, the skins slip right off.

 

Beets Every Which Way: Pickling Spice Blend

a jar of pickled beet from a bird's eye view

I have a beet problem, which is to say that I love pickled beets, which means I’m worried that I’m missing out on the perfect pickled beet recipe. That means I experiment a lot with them. My rule has been that when I make them, I make my current favorite recipe alongside a new recipe, so I can taste them against each other. Sometimes the new recipe goes on repeat and sometimes it just goes into my notes, to be revived if I think a friend or guest will enjoy it.

Today’s recipe is more of a traditional pickle profile.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb beets steamed, roasted, or boiled beets, sliced or quartered*
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced thin\
  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. nonchlorinated water
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 tsp. whole peppercorns

Boil vinegar, water, and spices, then cool slightly; strain. Pour over beets and onions in a heat-proof jar. Refrigerate*

You can steam them by covering them in tin foil and placing in a roasting pan at 400 degrees. Roast by putting them in a roasting pan with olive oil at 400 degrees. Or place beets in enough water to cover and boil 1-2 hours until soft. In any case, wash thoroughly but do not peel before you begin and leave 1-2 inches of tops intact. After the beets are cooked, the skins slip right off.

 

Beets Every Which Way: Honey Pickled Beets

a view of a jark of pickled beets from above

I have a beet problem, which is to say that I love pickled beets, which means I’m worried that I’m missing out on the perfect pickled beet recipe. That means I experiment a lot with them. My rule has been that when I make them, I make my current favorite recipe alongside a new recipe, so I can taste them against each other. Sometimes the new recipe goes on repeat and sometimes it just goes into my notes, to be revived if I think a friend or guest will enjoy it.

Today’s recipe is a little lower in sugar than others I often use and is sweetened with honey, which is a fun change of pace.

Ingredient, in addition to steamed, roasted, or boiled beets, sliced or quartered*:

  • Equal parts apple cider vinegar and non-chlorinated water, enough to pour over beets to cover. If unsure, start with 1/2 c. of each.
  • 3 Tbs honey per 1 c. liquid
  • 1 1/2tsp salt per 1 c. liquid
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper per 1 c. liquid
  • 1 spring of fresh rosemary**

Boil liquid, then cool slightly. Pour over beets in a heat-proof jar. Refrigerate*

*How many beets, you ask? As many as you want to eat.

You can steam them by covering them in tin foil and placing in a roasting pan at 400 degrees. Roast by putting them in a roasting pan with olive oil at 400 degrees. Or place beets in enough water to cover and boil 1-2 hours until soft. In any case, wash thoroughly but do not peel before you begin and leave 1-2 inches of tops intact. After the beets are cooked, the skins slip right off.

**I use rosemary because I grow it. You could also use an orange or lemon peel or skip it entirely.

 

 

 

Back-to-(home)school Sloppy Joes

“Do you miss school?” I asked my youngest as what would have been the end of the school year neared.

“I miss sloppy joes.”

How could I say no to that? In honor of all the kids who miss sloppy joes, here’s the recipe I’ve been working on all summer. It has two unusual components: onions that are nearly liquefied (so you get the taste without your children who freak out at the sight of the tiniest bit of onion objecting to them) and the use of baking soda to keep the meat moist. It’s weird, but it’s science.

a sloppy joe o a potato bun

  • 1 lb 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4-1 onion, finely chopped or nearly liquefied in a food processor, then strained
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 c ketchup
  • 3 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1/4 c + 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs paprika
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch
  • 2 Tbs cold water
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Mix 1 tsp water and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Add to meat and begin to brown. Mix onion and 1/8 tsp baking soda and add to meat as it cooks. When nearly brown, add garlic. When meat has finished browning, drain some or all the liquid.
  2. Combine ketchup, brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and paprika. Add to meat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Create a slurry with cornstarch and cold water. Make sure cornstarch is entirely dissolved in water so no chunks remain. Stir into meat mixture.
  4. Add red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar and stir once more before serving on potato rolls.

 

Listening Hearts:

Our family has been working on a new daily practice: listening. Active, reflective, engaged listening that says to the other person. My desire is to understand you as you are, not to correct you or improve you or educate you.

To that end, we’ve been writing questions to help us get to know each other better. Some of these questions are serious; many are silly. Sometimes we laugh at things that are meant to be serious, and sometimes our silliness leads us into serious places. Our goal is to publish one each day on our blog. We hope you find them useful, either as prompts to think about yourself or as questions you bring to the car ride or the dinner table. They’re written by all of us, and you’ll see the diversity of our thoughts and interest in them, so in the questions themselves, you’ll get to know us a little better too.

Subscribe to our blog (or follow our Twitter account @familyfoxhole) to have them appear in your inbox or Twitter feed daily.

Today’s question:

What is one happy memory you made this month?

Signs of life and love

four shelves of plants, candles, photos, and cards

In January, I started a part-time job as interim executive director of a local restorative justice agency. The hiring committee assured me that the interim work was just that–interim while they completed a longer-term hire, not clean-up. The place had great staff, stable finances, and a healthy workplace culture. I said yes and soon found the work and the workplace to be even more enjoyable than the hiring committee had described.

Then COVID hit and my job duties changed suddenly. I’d planned on keeping the ship afloat and heading in the right direction, plus maybe getting to do some glad-handing at fundraisers. Instead, we had to figure out how to do our work in an entirely new way.  But the staff, resilient and open to learning new things, rose to the challenge. Still, I was left with one nearly-impossible task: keeping the office plants alive.

When our doors closed to the public, someone had to take them home, and as the closest employee who had enough space for them, it was me.

I have many skills, but care of plants (indoors or out) has never been one. It wasn’t why I was hired, and had it been a question during the interview, I would have had to sadly tell the committee to hire someone else.

But here I was, and here they are–six months later, alive!

img_4486-1

Truly, every day that they survive is a miracle!

Here are some other things that are giving us encouragement these days.

 

Above, cards received by my middle child from friends far and wide to celebrate middle school graduation. Two are handmade and another is a painting by the sender’s mother-in-law, a Sri Lankan artist whose work hangs in the UN. Every one is a reminder of how loved and supported our family is.

Now that the weather isn’t unbearably hot, our plants have moved outside, where they get to enjoy the view of prayer flags made by my friend M.

My time with the nonprofit is over and the original plants returned to the office, but during their sojourn at my house they grew so much it was time to split some of them. Those that remain behind are a lovely, living reminder of my time with the agency and our hard work together to keep a good thing going despite the challenges of 2020.

 

 

Listening Hearts:

Our family has been working on a new daily practice: listening. Active, reflective, engaged listening that says to the other person. My desire is to understand you as you are, not to correct you or improve you or educate you.

To that end, we’ve been writing questions to help us get to know each other better. Some of these questions are serious; many are silly. Sometimes we laugh at things that are meant to be serious, and sometimes our silliness leads us into serious places. Our goal is to publish one each day on our blog. We hope you find them useful, either as prompts to think about yourself or as questions you bring to the car ride or the dinner table. They’re written by all of us, and you’ll see the diversity of our thoughts and interest in them, so in the questions themselves, you’ll get to know us a little better too.

Subscribe to our blog (or follow our Twitter account @familyfoxhole) to have them appear in your inbox or Twitter feed daily.

Today’s question:

What is one happy memory you have of interacting with an animal?

boy and dog
A photo of Mr. Prickles, when he was just 3 years old, and his first pup, Sonny,

Feeling Loved Through Handwritten Notes

The last year was really hard for me, for a lot of reasons but mostly revolving around a major revision to my relationship with my children’s father. That led to a move of nearly 1000 miles. And in the process, I lost a precious box of cards and letters.

I am not a big saver of things, but I’ve kept cards for my entire adult life: thank yous from students, especially meaningful birthday cards, and notes of encouragement when I’ve gone through other tough times. I’d saved every anniversary card until I began the work of packing, when I made the decision to let them go. I’m fortunate that I have friends who are good writers (and some who are extraordinary card makers!), so many of the cards I continued to treasure were quite beautifully written and made, and they made the blow of removing the anniversary cards from my collection easier.

But now they, too, were gone. Amid all the other losses of the year, it felt silly to mourn something so small, but I was sad. So many of my happy memories had already disappeared, but those cards had felt sincere, and I looked forward to revisiting them as needed to remind myself of how loved I was.

Then, as I slowly shared the news of our move and the change in my marriage that led to it, cards began to come again. Before our boxes even arrived in our new home–so before I even knew that these reminders of support were missing–my friend N sent this one:

I was thankful when I opened it, glad to have the suckiness of the situation affirmed rather than ignored or glossed over or treated as a lesson I would learn from.

More came. A housewarming card from C, and homemade one from J, a real papersmith. My birthday approached, and I was sad–it was the first time in 16 years, the length of my marriage, that my husband’s aunt didn’t send a card. I felt the loss of his extended family sharply, a decision made for me that I didn’t want. But then my friend D sent a card of happy birthday wishes and also a second card, recognizing the difficulty of the moment. On my birthday, I woke up to find that my older son had crafted me a card by hand–not something he does for fun on his own, but that he had intuitively understood as important to me.

Inside: “Mom, I love you. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you are my mom.”

And, a few weeks later, our mantle was filled with Christmas cards and letters from friends far and wide, including my husband’s aunt, who I’d come to see as my own. I shared in my own holiday letter a bit about the loss of our year. It was six months later, and while my local friends and closest relatives and friends knew, my extended family and friends I spoke to less frequently were only now hearing about the difficulty of the previous year. Whereas before, writing our family Christmas letter had been something I thought about  joyfully almost all year long, it had become one of my first worries after my husband left–probably because worrying about it helped stave off my fears about the more important things that were changing. But writing it was good for me, allowing me a chance to put into words a little of the loss I felt and offer it to people I know loved me.

“You are kind”–on days when it was hard to trust my own judgment of myself, the words of friends identifying good qualities in me helped orient me.

Within a few days of putting the letter into the mail, friends began to drop me notes, affirming me and my family. I know it was hard for some of them; it’s awkward to respond to the grief that someone else offers. But I was thankful every time one of them wrote. I felt that a story I can’t really tell–it’s too long and sad right now–was heard, that the grief I spoke was grief they shared.

Of course, you don’t have to be a letter writer to share love and support with someone, but, to me, building a new collection of letters and notes has been an important part of my recovery from a difficult year. (Today is a year to do the day since we first slept in our new house.) If you’ve send me a card, know that I treasure it.